Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Team Player - Football Kids

Are You a Great Team Player?

In August, Geno Smith of the NY Jets got punched in the face in the locker room by a teammate. The blow broke Geno’s jaw, which required surgery, and the injury will take Geno out of playing football for a long time.  Teammates ruining the season and potentially, career, of another teammate is an example of how to NOT be a team player.  

Are the people you work with great team players? How can you be a better team player? How do great team players contribute to the mission and results of the organization?

1. Understand expectations. Team players know the mission of the project, team, or business and they work every day to make that mission happen.

2. Work for improvement every day. Great team players think about the job, their role, and how to improve their performance, their contributions, and process improvement. Think about people who go to the gym on a regular basis. Do they do the same workout every day? No. They try to do one more pushup, one more rep, or be a little bit faster every day.

3. Know what they need to do. Leaders, managers, and coaches often assume that their team players know what to do to be successful. Team players, in order to improve, need to know not just what is expected of them today in their current role, but what they need to do in order to advance and contribute more.

4. Internalize the team’s goals as your own. Focus on the team’s needs and outcomes and the greater good of the team. 

5. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more. One of my colleagues said, “If you are going to be great at anything, be great at communciation.”

Great communication means not just seeing what the boss sends out, nodding your head, and then doing it. Communication means looping back and letting them know that you understand, providing any feedback you might have, and then reutilizing that message with the people around you. It also means letting people know when you have completed your part of the job.  Finish the loop.

Great team players continue to reinforce the message from the coach, the orders from the boss, and the mission of the team.

6. Act as a bridge, not a wall. Don’t be an obstacle at work. I was once asked, “What characteristics do you want in your new boss?” I said, “I just didn’t want my boss to be an obstacle that I had to overcome.” I wasn’t even hoping for a bridge, someone who was going to be helpful and help me make connections that enabled me to do my job better. I just wanted a boss who wasn’t going to make my job worse. (I know! Pretty low expectations.)

Make sure that you, as a boss or a team member, are not the obstacle that gets in the way of other people doing their jobs.

When someone sends an email, respond quickly. When you commit to a deadline, get it done. When your division handles part of production, make sure the quality is correct. Be a bridge to help other people be more successful.

7. Provide feedback. Yes, everyone wants to know that they’re doing a great job. Many people feel that responding to their boss may be construed as obsequious behavior. However, as a boss, sending out messages and hearing nothing back is very discouraging. Great team players provide feedback and provide accountability to those who communicate the message.

8. Do what you say you’re going to do and be where you say you’re going to be. In baseball, when there is a possible out on second base, other players in the field throw the ball where the second base player should be, hoping that the second base player will be where he or she is supposed to be when the ball finally gets there. That is what they practice and that is what is supposed to happen. Can your team members trust you to be where you say you’re going to be? Can the people around you trust you to do what you say you are going to do?

9. Dress up, show up, and speak up is how one of my friend says she got ahead in her industry. She was the most reliable person on every team.  She dressed the part – she looked like she could step into her boss’s role, she expressed opinions, and she galvanized her co-workers on the goals of the organization. A great team player!


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